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Lyndale Blog - September 2018

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Spring Is Sprung

The days are noticeably lengthening and the plants are starting to react positively so its official, spring is more than in the air, it is with us.

In Auckland we are still privileged to have a LOT of rain. I say privileged as we have recently had a family of Australian relatives staying with us.

They hail from an inland NSW agricultural town called Cootamundra, they don't have a clothes dryer because they don't need one despite having a young family of three boys under 5 years of age.

The fact is that it rarely rains in the agricultural cropping town of Cootamundra (area home of Acacia baileyana or "Cootamundra wattle"), NSW Australia. In fact they are starring down the barrel of another drought, which is already starting to threaten crops and hence job security.

Their visit highlighted for me how lucky we are, and while we may moan about the constant Auckland rain, it really is a very good problem to have.



Australia drought not just
Bledisloe Cup ...

Border Problems

There is some heat in the relationship between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the horticultural and agricultural industries at present.

In the horticultural sector, there are two separate areas of litigation against MPI brought by groups that are dissatisfied with decisions made by MPI that have adversely impacted their business, of, in one case fruit tree production, and in the other case cropping Kiwifruit.

Both these cases are still before the courts but there is no doubt that we will see a different relationship between industry and bureaucrats emerge from the other side of this confrontation.

Some growers in our sphere of growing, recall the distant past where the origins of MPI was an organisation established to assist in the development and growth of the export potential of our sector. Undoubtedly they still watched the borders (remember the "fly" spray procedure on all inbound international flights) for undesirable organisms, but they had a real empathy for and mandate to, grow the export capability of the sector.

Today the organisation appears to attract ex policemen, bureaucratic and paper shuffling managers, interspersed with the odd science PhD who has not steeped outside academia to sample the real world of horticultural endeavour in earnest.

For us involved in the ornamental world there is not a lot of impact with MPI unless you want to import (or export) live plant material, or more recently have been afflicted with Myrtle Rust.

The response by MPI in the Myrtle Rust situation, happened under section 122 of the Biosecurity Act 1993, (which unlike the section of the Act involved in the case that some fruit tree producers have taken against MPI), does see individual businesses who suffer loss as a result of action taken by MPI fully compensated in theory.


Apparently South Africa's
still spraying

Frustration Continued

But I digress; those of us who do try and import plant material have become increasingly frustrated by the increasing difficulty that surrounds this activity.

We all know that pathway of live plant imports is a high risk one, as yes, it is a very real possibility that pest and disease can hitchhike on the very plants we wish to import.

However, MPI also know that this is a well-managed and controlled process which sees four levels of quarantine protection potentially in place to control the risk profile of imports which are also required to comply with an Import Health Standard, (a list of procedures and declarations required to be undertaken and given prior to entry into NZ).

The frustrations arise when, as has happened recently, emergency measures are put in place because of an escalation of the threat profile of a disease (Xylella) which effectively closes down a whole lot of import pathways that were being regularly used by ornamental growers, with little or no resource being visibly given to work through the risk and come up with some acceptable way of allowing commerce to continue.

Similarly with those same Import Health Standards mentioned earlier, MPI have not resourced the continual updating of these important standards and certainly have not developed any new ones.

What this means is that, when you apply for a permit to import a plant, you will quite likely be told, sorry no, the IHS (Import Health Standard) is out of date and requires a review. There is no time line on this review, so effectively that is a NO, with no hope of a change in your career span.


MPI bogged down trying to get
on top of updating the
Import Health Standards

Back To The Border

So this mounting background of frustration now interfaces with what happens physically at the border when you do figure out how to get some of the very few plants permitted to be imported actually into the country.

The airports are busy places and Auckland is the busiest/worst in NZ.
Many tons of live produce flood in through the airport gateway. Think fruit and vegetable plus animals and animal products. Then think a few (relatively) live plant imports, which are mostly tissue culture (which are considered to be sterile imports, and of a low risk profile).

All of this stuff has to be physically inspected prior to release, for hitchhiker pest and disease, so a booking system exists which see the inspectors operating on a tight pre-arranged schedule of booked in inspections times, work their way through this random recently arrived collection of different imports.

Sadly live plants tend to not stay that way (live) if they are not processed and released to the intensive care facilities of nurseries within a day or two of arrival.

Yet the low risk live plant imports are all processed with the high risk fruit and produce, and the system is not easy to negotiate.

All in all, the Airport gateway is a frustrating process which takes some time to get your head around, and acts as a catalyst for the building frustrations around the importation of live plants. MPI will seriously need to address the broader, importation issues or risk losing the goodwill of growers and potentially face further litigation.

If only growing and selling plants were as simple as it looks.

Kind regards
Malcolm and the Lyndale Team


Lots of places for creatures
to hide

Happy MPI employee

Lyndale Nurseries

Post PO Box 81 022, Whenuapai, Auckland
Street 82 Trig Rd, Whenuapai, Auckland
Phone 09 416 8482
Fax 09 416 9268
©2018 Lyndale Nurseries. Pictures & information provided as a guide only.
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